As it is said, “identity is our most valuable possession.” It’s what defines who we are. As humans, we use our passports and social security numbers to establish our identities and prove our authenticity. They make people trust who we say we are. And trust is the foundation of any transaction.
What Happens When Identities Are Stolen?
Imagine someone stealing your passport on a holiday. A traveler’s worst nightmare, isn’t it? Without the proof to show who you are and where you came from, you would be stranded in a foreign country, dreading the situation, struggling to get people to trust your identity. Besides, your stolen passport credentials could also be used to impersonate you and commit online fraud.
It’s the same analogy that applies to machines and their identities. Just like users, machines too have unique identities. In other words, machines use digital certificates and keys to prove their authenticity and establish security and trust in an enterprise network. Except, when machine identities are compromised, the magnitude of the consequences is too high.
When It Comes to Machine Identity Theft, The Stakes Are Pretty High.
According to the 2022 Ponemon Report: The State of Certificate Lifecycle Management in Global Organizations, 52% of the respondents mentioned that their organizations experienced one or more security incidents or data breaches in the past two years. These security incidents were caused by a variety of factors, including digital certificate compromise caused mainly by a cyberattack, certificate authority (CA) compromise, or an employee or third-party negligence.
Bad actors exploit machine identities to steal sensitive, business-critical information. The stolen information is then held for high ransom, sold on the dark web, used to carry out large sum wire transfers, or even impair other critical systems, affecting both customers and organizations. Sometimes, the financial losses, regulatory penalties, and tarnished reputation can be too catastrophic to recover from.
Why Are Machine Identities A Popular Attack Vector?
Digital certificates are an important security control in protecting data on the internet. Every digital certificate serves as an access card into an organization’s core network. This very nature makes them the most attractive target for hackers. Besides, the enormous volume of certificates that organizations have today has indefinitely expanded the attack surface, giving hackers plenty of opportunities.
Traditionally, certificate management has mostly involved manual processes with spreadsheets and home-grown solutions. These processes are too primitive to adapt and are failing to meet the identity management requirements of cloud environments. Lack of efficient certificate management is also the reason why hackers are target digital certificates.
Why Manual Certificate Management Is A Problem
Imagine you are a global banking organization on your path towards digital transformation, moving legacy applications to the cloud. At the same time, with increasing investments made in omnichannel customer journeys, you are witnessing heightened security risks and challenges. With manual processes, can you safeguard digital identities in such a consumer-centric market?
The CISO’s Guide to Certificate Lifecycle Management (CLM)
Protecting digital identities in the cloud requires sufficient visibility and continuous monitoring. But home-grown and CA-provided monitoring solutions are not equipped to offer visibility of certificates procured from multiple CAs and deployed across multiple cloud environments.
Without visibility, discovering certificates and monitoring them for vulnerabilities becomes challenging. Delayed issue detection and remediation increases the risk of unknown certificates getting expired or compromised, impacting security.
With manual processes, executing everyday certificate tasks such as creation, renewal, and revocation would typically involve liaising with several IT teams and getting multiple approvals. A certificate request may need several days to reach approval, which, in turn, delays certificate issuance and provisioning, causing unanticipated service disruptions.
Manual management also makes it difficult to define responsibilities and assign certificate ownership. Due to ownership dilemmas, stakeholders often neglect responsibilities such as renewals and revocations, causing certificate expiry-related outages and security breaches.
Strong policy enforcement is key to regulate access and eliminating certificate-related errors. But without a centralized management system, defining and enforcing a uniform PKI policy becomes a challenge, resulting in issues such as misconfigurations, provisioning errors, and non-compliance.
To stay ahead of the hackers, it is important to keep pace with new encryption standards and regularly upgrade weak certificates. But manual processes provide very little visibility and insight into crypto standards, such as key size, cipher strength, and allowed protocol versions. They also make the upgrade process highly complicated and long-drawn.
The need for an advanced and unified certificate lifecycle management (CLM) solution is not limited to banks and financial institutions. Industry verticals such as healthcare, retail, manufacturing, utility, and public sectors are also facing similar security risks, as they ride the digital wave. As digital certificates make the frontline defense for all digital interactions, organizations must prioritize building a robust CLM system.
Automate for Speed, Agility, And Resilience
Digital certificates and keys are too precious to be managed by ad-hoc, manual processes. To that effect, automation can greatly help address manual certificate management issues. An automated solution makes CLM easy, efficient, and secure by helping:
- Discover certificates across distributed cloud environments
- Maintain an up-to-date inventory of certificates along with their associated information
- Gain holistic visibility of certificates, their expiry timelines, and their crypto standards
- Monitor and manage all certificates from a single, centralized console
- Enforce strong security policies to avoid vulnerabilities and maintain compliance
- Build crypto-agility for easy and quick upgrades
- Automate all certificate processes such as renewals and revocations and eliminate human effort
All businesses are expected to strictly adhere to the compliance standards for encryption such as, The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), The Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS), and more. Having an automation tool also helps schedule periodic checks and replace certificates to avoid invoking penalties for non-compliance.
Automation can be a true catalyst for certificate management, given the amount of time, effort, and money it saves organizations. More importantly, it helps toughen the overall enterprise defense, which is the need of the hour.